When the New York Islanders faced the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, it gave them their first look at the expansion team. Although so far, the Golden Knights have not been your typical expansion team.
With an 8-2-0 record, Vegas is off to the best start of any expansion team in NHL history. It has won five straight games which, according to Elias Sports Bureau matches the longest win streak by any team at any point during its inaugural NHL season. The 1926-27 New York Rangers and 1979-80 Edmonton Oilers also had five-game win streaks.
During their inaugural season of 1972-73, the Islanders didn’t win get their seventh win until their 55th game — Feb. 6, 1973, a 4-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Heck, the Washington Capitals only won eight games total in their inaugural season of 1974-75.
James Neal has been leading the way for the Golden Knights, scoring a team-high seven goals. With goalies Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban injured, Oscar Dansk has come up from the minors and won three games, including the first shutout in team history, 7-0, over the Colorado Avalanche on Oct. 27.
Now, the Islanders will try to slow this first-year “juggernaut.”
When they joined the NHL in 1972-73, the Islanders faced the Atlanta Flames, their expansion brethren, in their inaugural game on October 7, 1972, and lost, 3-2.
Here’s a look back at how the Islanders have fared against other expansion teams in their first meeting:
Scouts and Caps
Prior to the 1974-75 season, the Kansas City Scouts and Washington Capitals joined the NHL. The Islanders faced Kansas City for the first time Oct. 12, 1974, at Nassau Coliseum. It was the Scouts’ second game; they lost their opener three days earlier at Toronto, 6-2.
In this one, the Islanders also prevailed, 6-2. They got goals from four defensemen — Jean Potvin, Denis Potvin, Dave Fortier and Dave Lewis. Goalie Glenn “Chico” Resch made 34 saves.
Eight days later, the Islanders faced the Capitals for the first time in Washington. They won, 5-0, as Billy Smith made 26 saves to earn the shutout. Bob Bourne, Ernie Hicke, Billy Harris, Ralph Stewart, and Fortier scored the goals.
The NHL/WHA Merger
When the NHL merged with the World Hockey Association, four new teams joined the league.
On Oct. 20, 1979, the Islanders hosted the Hartford Whalers and won, 6-1. Harris’ hat trick made it 3-0. Anders Kallur, Steve Tambellini, and Mike Bossy also scored.
Three days later, the Edmonton Oilers came to Nassau Coliseum for the first time. The teams skated to a 3-3 tie. Clark Gillies scored twice for the Islanders and Harris netted the game-tying goal at 18:43 of the third period.
When the Islanders faced the Winnipeg Jets for the first time, in Winnipeg on Nov. 4, 1979, it also resulted in a tie, 4-4. Yvon Vautour scored twice and Bryan Trottier’s goal at 9:43 of the third gave the Islanders a 4-3 lead. But Peter Sullivan scored for the Jets at 15:59 to earn the tie.
Finally, against the Quebec Nordiques on Jan. 19, 1980, the Islanders posted a 3-1 win. Third-period goals by Gillies and Harris broke a 1-1 tie. The Islanders outshot the Nordiques, 50-25, but goalie Michel Dion made 48 saves. This game also marked the return of defenseman Gerry Hart to Long Island. Hart was an original Islander, playing 476 games in seven seasons, but was taken by Quebec in the expansion draft.
Wave of NHL Expansion
Five teams were added to the NHL within a three-year period in the early 1990s.
In 1991-92, the San Jose Sharks came into the league. When the Islanders faced them for the first time Oct. 29, 1991, they posted an 8-4 victory. The game was tied, 4-4, after two periods, but goals by Benoit Hogue, Steve Thomas, Dave Chyzowski, and Pierre Turgeon in the third period gave the Islanders the win. The loss was the 10th of a 13-game losing streak by the Sharks.
Two teams came into existence in the 1992-93 season: the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Ottawa Senators. The Islanders hosted Tampa Bay on Nov. 7, 1992, and lost in overtime, 6-5. Down, 5-3, early in the third period, the Islanders rallied to tie on goals by David Volek and Turgeon, the latter coming with seven seconds left in regulation. But Doug Crossman scored at 1:16 of overtime to give the Lightning their sixth win in their 16th game.
Facing Ottawa for the first time Dec. 17, 1992, the Islanders won, 9-3. scoring four goals in both the first and third periods. Turgeon finished with two goals and Hogue had a goal and three assists.
For the 1993-94 campaign, two more teams were added to the mix: the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and Florida Panthers. The Islanders visited Anaheim on Oct. 10, 1993, in the Ducks’ second game and won in overtime, 4-3. Bob Corkum tied the score at 19:28 of the third period for Anaheim, but Turgeon’s second goal of the game at 2:43 of OT gave the Islanders the win.
The first time the Islanders faced Florida was Oct. 28, 1993, and the Panthers came away with a 5-2 win on home ice. Former Islander Tom Fitzgerald broke a 1-1 tie in the second period. Gord Murphy, Rob Niedermayer, Randy Gilhen and Dave Lowry also scored for the Panthers. Turgeon and Thomas had the Islanders’ goals.
Starting with the Nashville Predators in the 1998-99 season, the NHL would add four more teams in a three-year period to reach 30 clubs.
When the Islanders met the Predators for the first time in Nashville on Nov. 21, 1998, they won, 6-3. Mike Watt, Robert Reichel, Gino Odjick, Trevor Linden, Kevin Miller and Sergei Nemchinov were the goal-scorers for the Islanders.
Another Atlanta expansion team — the Thrashers — came into the league in 1999-2000, 19 years after the Flames left for Calgary. In their fourth game, the Thrashers faced the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum and beat them, 2-0, for the franchise’s first win. Goalie Damian Rhodes stopped 20 shots to earn the shutout and Andrew Brunette and Kelly Buchberger had the goals.
Finally, the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild joined for the 2000-01 season. On Dec. 23, 2000, the Islanders hosted Columbus and lost, 7-5. Geoff Sanderson’s second goal of the game at 16:22 of the third broke a 5-5 tie. Serge Aubin then scored an empty-netter at 19:52 for his second goal of the game to seal the win. Garry Galley, Mariusz Czerkawski, Taylor Pyatt, Mark Lawrence and Mark Parrish scored for the Islanders.
The Islanders also lost their first meeting with the Wild, 3-2, on Jan. 19. 2001. Darby Hendrickson, Antti Laaksonen, and Wes Walz scored in the second period for Minnesota. Tim Connolly and Bill Muckalt had third-period goals for the Islanders as their comeback bid fell short.
So the Islanders’ final tally in their first meeting against expansion teams: eight wins, six losses, two ties.
Sports writer/copy editor/page designer for daily newspaper in northeastern Pennsylvania for almost 30 years. Adjunct professor, Communications, for 12 years at University of Scranton. Long Island native.